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Thu Apr 13, 2017, 10:01 PM

Primary Structures

“If my poetry aims to achieve anything, it's to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel.”
-- James D. Morrison

One of the more interesting and important discussions taking place within the Democratic Party involves its structure – from the local to state to national levels. Much of the current debate is rooted in the experiences of the 2016 presidential primary, though the focus is on the future. It includes issues ranging from who exercises “control” of the party; the potential for primaries at various levels; and the unacceptable number of lost seats in recent elections, including governors and state legislators, as well as in the House and Senate.

As a long-time member of the Democratic Party who identifies with the Democratic Left, I am convinced that everyone has the right to her/his opinion. And the responsibility to voice their beliefs, and to act upon them. That includes those who strongly disagree with my opinions. And, for that matter, for those who simply disagree with me as a person.

Obviously, changes will occur. No organic entity on earth remains the same. Those that attempt to never change become stale and stagnant, and suffer from rot and decay. When we think of the most successful candidates from our party, they tend to campaign on the promise of positive change. When we think of the worst republican candidates, they often campaign upon the lie that society can go back to some imaginary “better time” – or, in some instances, they promise a better future, but deliver decay and rot, like Trump.

The Democratic Party contains a wide range of people: going from left to right, for example, there are progressives, liberals, moderates, and conservative party members. Thus, it should come as no surprise that there will be a corresponding range of ideas, beliefs, and values. At the same time, there are some basic ideas, beliefs, and values that bind us together. It's important to be able to discuss both in an open and honest manner.

Yet, in some venues – perhaps primarily the internet – such discussions are frequently acrimonious. That's a shame. In fact, it would seem that this could only benefit the opposition, making it a double-shame. Let's consider the other potential this has for the Democratic Party.

“Republicans” are a sub-species of human beings, though anthropologists disagree on where exactly they fit on the “family tree.” But there is agreement that they exist in a semi-conscious state, with a marked ignorance and fear that results in herd behaviors. A mutation of a socially-spread disease has resulted in high rates of anti-social behaviors – the most common behavior being an obsessive-repulsive need to insult anyone who believes differently than them. Those who believe in science, for example, are almost always attacked.

Over the past four decades, I've been an environmental activist. I was born in a town with a terrible amount of toxic industrial pollution, including several large dumps. The largest is over 120 acres. For years, local industry disposed of toxic wastes by dumping them either in or very near the small lakes that served as water reservoirs. I've worked with local grass roots groups, the local, state, and federal government, and even provided witnesses for the EPA when the largest industry brought them to federal court to fight the MSW law.

During much of the time, I served as the top assistant to the Onondaga Nation's Chief Paul Waterman. The majority of this work involved burial protection and repatriation issues. That is, of course, related to other environmental issues. A more current example of this is the conflict at Standing Rock. I have been pleased to see some of our party's elected representative standing in unity with the Standing Rock Sioux.

I think that a good many of the non-Indians who supported Paul, or who support Standing Rock, recognize that the traditional Native American leaders provide a very different type of leadership than the vast majority of “elected representatives” in state houses and Washington, DC. This is not to suggest that we plan to primary every current politician in 2018 and 2020. It does mean we will be investing our efforts in electing reasonably pro-environment candidates. And to identify and promote some from the grass roots willing to run for office.

A few years back, outside a public hearing on a proposed pipeline in this area, a gentleman that I don't know informed me – in front of others – that the tea party, pro-fracking group he belonged to were going to target me. I felt sorry for him, for being so filled with hatred. For hatred is a toxin that contaminates the vessel which contains it, as Rubin Carter once told me.

In recent times, science has documented the damage that human beings are inflicting on the environment. Yet, some within the Democratic Party have expressed distrust of the environmental movement. Some in the intelligence agencies, in documenting Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election, have suggested that the environmentalists – especially those who oppose fracking – are promoting Putin's agenda. I have met hundreds of pro-environment, anti-fracking people, and not one only held these thoughts, beliefs, and values, after watching RT tv.

In my own case, I can say that I enjoy watching Abby Martin. I respect her for her intellect, and find her thinking interesting. But I have been a grass roots activist within the Democratic Party since long before Ms. Martin was born. That's because I respect the traditions of Chief Water and the research of scientist; it is also because I am opposed to people like Putin or Trump being in any position of power.

Still, when I've expressed my thoughts on these general topics – which do present challenges to the world's population – I've actually been accused of being a promoter of Russian influence, by a member of the Democratic Party. Gracious! I can't take such nonsense seriously. But I do believe that this type of thinking and behavior presents far more of a threat to the party's chances in 2018 and 2020 than any primary contest could. Primaries are about the open and honest debates, and party members have a need to know, for example, who is pro-environment, and who is pro-fracking and pro-pipeline – particularly if they get contributions from the energy corporations.

H2O Man

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Warpy Apr 2017 #1
H2O Man Apr 2017 #2

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Apr 13, 2017, 10:15 PM

1. I will also add that the least progressive Democrat, Manchin,

has twice the score of the most progressive Republican, Susan Collins. While I might wish he'd be primaried out by someone more progressive (and it's a low bar), I realize that if he's unopposed, he's what we can get and I'll take it.

I also feel sorry for the haters, I know what it does to body systems over time, especially the cardiovascular and GI systems. It's a poison that eats them from the inside. Unfortunately, it also carries a mild, self righteous sort of high, so the worst are often addicted to it.

I'm delighted that being a target doesn't seem to have done you any real damage.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #1)

Fri Apr 14, 2017, 08:20 AM

2. Thank you.

I agree that there are instances where running a candidate in a primary is, at very best, symbolic, if lightening strikes in other districts/states, it will send a clear message. I also understand that winning an election -- from the lowest local level on up -- is only the start. I recently finished two terms on the local school board. While I was able to do some good, it was a frustrating experience. One of my doctors had laughed when I first told him I was going to run; he said, "No credit, all the blame." (Later, with a straight face, I asked him why he didn't warn me?)

Another dynamic that is damaging is that people frequently believe that getting their candidate elected equals crossing the finish line. That's simply not true. Once elected, that person needs the public to continue to remain engaged, and advocating for positive change. That was obviously true when President Obama took office: the coalition that elected him sat back, creating a void that the tea party filled. Even at that school board level, the attendance at meetings was extremely low. The shit heads on the board liked that, since the public made them uncomfortable. We need to make them uncomfortable. Creative tension, as Dr. King taught, is a good thing.

Being a target is something that I've accepted as part of my duty. I've never been concerned with threats -- those who are serious do not give warnings. I have saved part of a board, wrapped in flag-colored crepe paper, that a gentleman broke over my head at a march years ago. He struck from behind, luckily on my rock of a head! Now, I admit that did sting. But threats? I don't feel that stick.

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